Faulknor back in action after lengthy layoff
August 24, 2017
Sometimes you don’t realise how much you love something until it’s gone.
Luckily for Canadian soccer defender Kennedy Faulknor, the loss was temporary.
In Canada’s opening game on March 7, 2016 against Haiti in the Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) Under-17 competition in Grenada, the teenager suffered a concussion with five minutes remaining in the contest.
Contesting a high ball, her head clashed with a Haitian striker.
“My head started to pound right away and I was disoriented,” Faulknor recalled. “I was straying in the midfield when I should have been back defending. I was all over the place.”
Diagnosed with a mild concussion by the team doctor, the Unionville-Milliken Soccer Club player was relegated to the sideline for the rest of the tournament in which Canada finished third behind the United States and Mexico.
“I couldn’t train with my team mates which meant I had to stay behind in my hotel room,” she said. “On match day, I sat in the bleachers with sunglasses.”
Back home, Faulknor saw a concussion specialist who confirmed the team doctor’s diagnosis.
“I was told that I could be out of action for a few weeks, but the headaches and vision problems persisted,” she said. “At this point, there wasn’t much I could do, so I just stayed in my room with the lights off and basically slept a lot.”
This was a dark period for Faulknor who, just a few months ago, was on top of the world.
In December 2015, the then 16 years old made her national senior debut in a four-team tournament in Brazil after impressing coach John Herdman at a training camp in Vancouver three months earlier.
The youngest team member started three of the games and was on the field for 275 of the possible 360 minutes in regulation time in the four contests.
Faulknor also committed to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in May 2015 and was voted the top Under-17 female player in the country that year.
Now all she could do was watch her teammates on television compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the Under-17 and 20 World Cups in Jordan and Papua New Guinea respectively.
“Those were three tournaments that I would have been eligible to challenge for places and I didn’t get that opportunity because of the injury,” said Faulknor who also missed an Under-20 three-team competition in Australia last month. “Funnily, it never crossed my mind that I would never play again. It was just the waiting and hoping that the searing headache would go away. Injuries are part of sport and there is not much you can do to get back on the field until you are fully healed. What I did think about was if I would still be as good as before I got injured. Also, being away from the sport made me realize how much I love soccer.”
After a few false starts, she was finally cleared to play again last May after being out of action for 15 months.
“Kennedy is very reserved and she doesn’t always show a lot of emotion, but I know she was happy and excited to get back on the field,” said her father, Glen Faulknor, who migrated from Jamaica at age four and played for Magic in the local league before turning to coaching.
Two months ago, Faulknor arrived on the UCLA campus to take up her scholarship.
“Kennedy will be a fantastic fit in Westwood,” predicts head coach Amanda Cromwell who spent eight seasons with the United States senior team before turning to coaching. “She has several caps with the Canadian full team and is a premiere left-footed defender. We saw Kennedy years ago at the Disney Showcase, and she stood out as one of the best players in that tournament. She has power, pace, and loves to have the ball at her feet. She is truly a modern-day center back who also can play on the flank. We have high expectations for Kennedy as she does for herself."
Faulknor and Canadian midfielder Jesse Fleming are the only two Canadians on the Bruins roster.
“It’s good to have someone on the team that I know and have played with,” the Bill Crothers Secondary School student said. “Though Jesse is a sophomore, she’s a team captain which means she has leadership skills. She also works very hard and is fit, so I will definitely be looking up to her.”
Last week, Faulknor was in Burnaby for an Under-20 training camp. The squad is preparing for the Under-20 CONCACAF championship next January in Trinidad & Tobago.
A striker converted to left back at the 2013 provincial tournament was moved to the centre back position in the final of the 2014 CONCACAF inaugural Girls Under-15 championship in the Cayman Islands that Canada won.